Book Review: The Rage War Trilogy
Alien: Invasion Predator: Incursion
Alien vs. Predator: Armageddon
By Tim Lebbon Let me preface by saying I am a huge Alien, Predator and AVP fan, both the movies and the books. But one thing that is always withheld is more information regarding the Predators' social systems. I was hoping this new series (2016) would provide more anthropological details, but there was no enough for my liking. Yet. I'm not a purist by any means regarding the stories; if a novelist goes a different direction from previous iterations, I don't get angry about it. All you need to make me happy with these books are to include tough women, teaming up of Predators and humans, and allusions to the original films.
Did this series deliver? It's fun! As it's written by the same author, I'm going to review it as one big story. The overall plot of the three books is that some humans left earth on advanced space ships centuries ago. Their intention was to find a new planet, but due to government corruption they decided to return to Earth and take over instead. They weaponized the Aliens (giving them cute little oxygen masks as well as an explosive death). The Predators skirmished with the Aliens in book one but then retreated into human territory. Eventually they have to team up with the humans to counter mutual destruction in book three. The characters include a team of marines (of course), some human diplomats/leaders, a bad-ass android, a few Predators (a female one, for once!), the bad guys, and a scientist.
The series has a fantastic start, an engaging and fun ending, but a rather lackluster and slow middle section. The action scenes are well-done, with great amounts of tension and excitement. Technology is explained but you’re never bombarded with too much description that you’re bored. Some interesting worlds are created, as well as a well-devised predication of where and how humans would colonize other planets. The story made sense – the ending was logical and not entirely predictable; I was worried about the fate of the world. Characters I thought would live, died, where others made it. Unfortunately, there are some loose ends that weren’t tied up and the last 30 pages go by very quickly. Similarly, there is a lot of repeated concepts/phrases and filler (mostly in Invasion).
The characters are what you expect from this genre – there are so many that none get a great deal of depth, but this series is more about action and fun than a psychological profile. That being said, I liked most of them. Liliya (the android) is tough, more complex than I expected, and carries a lot of the plot, but she is used often to provide info-dumps. The marines provided a great deal of comic relief in their hilarious military banter, as well a little love story I was rooting for. The motivations of the antagonists aren’t very complex, but understandable. The scientist, Isa, was rather bland and some of the military generals/politicians blended together, but no one is given too much time on the page for you to dislike them. There are some fun minor characters and a very well-crafted scene of an attack on a space station through the eyes of the little girl. I was impressed with: the number of female characters (both women in STEM and in the marines), LGBTQ representation (more than just one token!), and diversity. I’d give this series 10/10 for depictions of minorities.
Unfortunately, the Predators take a real back seat for most of the story. Are the authors of these novels told by the publishers not to include too much depth in the Predator ("Yuatja") culture? Because telling me a million times how inscrutable, mysterious and completely “unknowable” they are does not erase all questions. While we are given a female Predator, for once, and a scientist Predator with a disability, we aren’t given too much else in terms of cultural exploration. Conversations between the human scientist and the Predator scientist are nearly non-existent, which was disappointing, and I also had many questions about the plausibility of the Predators being depicted as nomadic tech-stealers. If you want to read a rant about this, please see my review on Goodreads.
Overall this series is a lot of fun! It’s not scary by any means, but there are some great action scenes, a “save the world” plot that feels legitimately tense, and some fun twists and turns.